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Vaughan Williams and the Bloomsbury Group


If one were to come up with a composer whose music might form the sound track to the lives of the members of the Bloomsbury Group, then Ralph Vaughan Williams would probably not be a prime candidate. But, surprisingly, RVW had a remarkable number of personal connections to the group.

RVW went up to Cambridge in September 1892. Through his mother he was related to the Wedgwood and Darwin dynasties, so he was lucky enough to have his cousin, Ralph Wedgwood already at Cambridge so that the two Ralphs were able to share lodgings. Interestingly, Ralph Wedgwood's maternal grandfather, James Meadows Rendel, was married to Lytton Strachey's eldest sister Elinor.

Whilst he was in Cambridge, RVW used to visit the Fisher family (Herbert and Mary Fisher and their eleven children) at the Lodge at Downing. Both RVW's father and uncles had known Herbert Fisher at Christchurch. During summer holidays, the Fishers had taken houses not far from RVW's home near Dorking, so the younger generations of both families were acquainted. Mary Fisher was the sister of Sir Leslie Stephen's second wife, Julia Jackson, the mother of Virginia and Vanessa Stephen (later to become Virgina Woolf and Vanessa Bell).

The Fisher cousins were not popular with the young Virginia and Vanessa Stephen, Virginia declaring that 'The Fishers would have made Eden uninhabitable'. Though the historian H A L Fisher would declare that his mother Mary was a saint, to the Stephen sisters Aunt Mary was just a washed out ghost. But Virginia and Vanessa had an elder half-sister, Stella Duckworth, from their mother's first marriage. Stella was very close to her cousin Adeline Fisher and Adeline was Stella's only confidant. RVW's visits to the Fishers in Cambridge inevitably involved music making with the family, especially Florence Fisher, her sister Adeline and Florence's fiancée R O Morris.

Also in September 1892, the philosopher G E Moore went up to Cambridge. By July of the next year Moore had become friendly with a group of like-minded young men that included Bertrand Russell and RVW's cousin Ralph Wedgwood. Apart from Moore, all the young men in the group were either Apostles or would become so.

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Copyright © 5 February 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK


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